Cox is making several changes to flareWatch, a broadband-fed subscription TV service being tested in California that is utilizing Fanhattan’s IP only Fan TV set-top, user interface and video search platform.
Chief among recent changes is the monthly fee for the service itself and the cost of the devices that are powering the pilot, which offers almost 100 live TV channels to Cox broadband customers in Orange County. Cox has also added a menu of video-on-demand fare and attached a streaming music service to the flareWatch service.
Cox has raised the monthly service fee for flareWatch – from $34.99 to $39.99 per month – in tandem with the new additions. The flareWatch sites touts it as an “exclusive BETA price” that’s “available for a limited time only.”
Cox originally offered up to three Fan TV devices and Fanhattan’s button-less, touch based remote control for $99.99 each. Recent revisions to the site marketing the flareWatch show that Cox has reduced those costs to $49.99 each, while still limiting three Fan TV devices per customer.
The base flareWatch service, which is still in beta form, offers more than 90 channels, with more than two-thirds of them in high-definition, coupled with a VOD menu and a cloud DVR that provides 30 hours of storage.
The site also mentions two new flare-branded services as “coming soon”: flareListen, a streaming music offering powered by Rhapsody; and flarePlay, a gaming service that promises “unlimited gameplay” with “new titles every month.” The site does not mention a partner for the coming flarePlay service.
According to Cox, flareListen is already available and built into the current monthly price for flareWatch.
“As part of the flareWatch trial in Orange County, we are testing various features and price points,” Cox spokesman Todd Smith said in an emailed statement. “Video On Demand is now available, with a limited library, which may expand during the trial." He confirmed that the streaming music service is now included and the gaming service will launch soon at a "date still to be determined.”
Cox’s IP-delivered flareWatch service appears to be a product targeted at so-called “cord-cutters” that don’t subscribe to traditional cable TV services, but use a mix of over-the-air TV and broadband to fulfill their video needs. Cox is limiting flareWatch to high-speed Internet customers in Orange County who subscribe to at least the MSO’s Preferred tier, which delivers 10 Mbps downstream by 1 Mbps upstream for about $47 per month.
“Right now, we are very focused on the imminent national launch of the new Cox personal video experience, including the 2nd screen app and 6 tuner DVR, but we will continue to listen closely to our customers and test new offers to gauge interest and response (in this case, testing new equipment and user interface),” Smith added in the statement provided Monday. “It is still early and the trial is small, but the flareWatch customer feedback at purchase and product satisfaction have been positive."
Cox is also conducting the test as the MSO, and other traditional pay TV providers, prepare to face competition from a “virtual MSO” service Intel Media’s later this year that will reportedly be called OnCue. Sony and Google are among others rumored to be developing similar over-the-top subscription TV services.